A/N: O.M.G! IT'S MY 50TH FANFIC! =D *screams like a fangirl*
Woww, I can hardly believe it. ^_^ It sure doesn't feel like that much. I remember when I learned how to write my first fanfic...thanks to AliJo. ^.^ Anyway, I'd like to thank ALL of my friends, reviewers, and supporters (whether in RL or on Fanfiction); without you guys, I definitely would've never made it this far! 8D *takes a thousand fresh-baked cookies out of the oven and hands them to the said peeps* xDD
Anywhoozle, I was really thinking about Trey and my oc Layla the other day (if any of you are familiar with WindBlown101 [mah best friend in rl!]'s story, Among the Imprisoned [epic story!], you know who Layla is), and I was like, Omg... how DID they first meet? First meetings are always really important to me. I always wanna know the origin behind things. Anyway, so I tried to stay legit and I just built on from a little idea I got one day. =D I worked hard on this fanfic; I hope you guys like it! It was sooo fun to write! Layla is so much fun. x] I really tried to stay in Trey's POV during all this; it's so much cuter that way! xD;
Disclaimer: I don't own the Shadow Children series by Margaret Peterson Haddix. When she first wrote the series I was in elementary school for pete's sake, guys! xD And even if I did, you better believe Layla would be in the series. x3
Oh- and before I forget, an EXTREMELY special thanks to WindBlown 101 for all her encouragement, support, and awesomely awesome friendship! Couldn't have done it without you, Jess! ;3 This girl has to put up with my fangirl obsession/rambling ALL THE TIME. Especially about Treyla. Sooo... KUDOS TO HER! XD
Okies, I'mma shut up and start this thing now. Enjoy, all you readers, mah 50th fanfic! Be amazed at the awesomeness. x33
OH! ONE MORE THING! I promise I'll shut up after this. xD The firefly scene before the flashback takes place after Among the Imprisoned by WindBlown101. The flashback takes place shortly after Among the Brave. ^-^ There! xD
...Hehehehe, I HAVE to say one more thing nao! xD This is officially the longest author's note I've ever written! 8D *grins like an idiot* Okies, I'm really done now, promise. xD;
"Trey- you mean to tell me you're never caught fireflies before? You haven't lived, boy!" Layla's grin was jubilant and eager, which should've given Trey all the reason in the world to feel nervous and slightly suspicious.
Instead, he compliantly allowed Layla to drag him out of Mr. Hendricks' cottage and out into the twilight air.. out in the open. Even with all that Trey had been through, it was all he could do not to conceal the involuntary shudder running through his body. As long as he lived, he'd never get used to the outside. Each time was a little better, but it wasn't his ideal way of having fun.
Not like Layla.
But then again, she wasn't a third child who had spent twelve years of her life indoors, never to step a foot outside until one December after her father died...
Trey immediately shook the thought from his mind. Not now, he told his mind firmly.
An appreciative gasp from Layla beside him drew Trey back to the present and out of his internal debate. "Look," she whispered and prodded him forward, eyes sparkling.
Trey followed her gaze and was awed into silence. It was one of the most beautiful sights he'd ever seen. He'd read about fireflies in some books, or lightning bugs as some people preferred to call them, but it hadn't done this scene justice. "It's... wow," he breathed, then chided himself. Wow isn't an adjective. It's an interjection. Decide to mess up your wording now of all times, huh?
Layla didn't seem to notice, though; just nodded in agreement. "The fun part is catching them." She shot him a mischievous smile, and Trey's heart rate sped up a little.
"C-Catching them?" Trey repeated blankly, hardly comprehending her words. How could you catch a bug? Well, scientists had to so they could write down their research. Maybe it wasn't impossible, then.
His gaze returned to the scene before him; several shimmering yellow lights dancing in the darkness. They seemed to make a pattern of some sorts. Trey was entranced.
Layla laughed. "Don't look like I just told you to eat them. We usually use jars, but we'll have to improvise." She demonstrated and stepped forward, cupping her palms around a couple in one swift motion.
"They don't sting or bite," Trey prompted cautiously. "..Right?"
"Heck no." Layla didn't hide her amusement as his statement. "They're harmless." She truimphantly returned to him and held out her now-glowing hands. "Hold out your hands," she instructed.
Curious, Trey obeyed and spread them out, palms up. It was the light enhancing Layla's beautiful features that made him catch his breath, staring at her fondly and barely aware of what she was doing, or where they even were, for that matter. It was when her hands clasped over his to close them and he felt a flutter in his enclosed palms that Trey jerked to attention, staring in awe at the glowing light seeping through his fingers. He was unsure of the feeling coursing through him. Excitement? Reverence? Euphoria?
"Wow.." Trey murmured, mentally congratulating himself on using the word correctly this time.
Layla smiled at him, her exotic eyes searching his face. She felt..privileged to be here. This was such a special moment, Trey experiencing one of the many joys of the peaceful night air for the first time. And she of all people was here to share it with him. She stifled the urge to draw back and release her hold on his hands when his warm brown eyes met hers.
In that moment, watching the moonlight cast overhead shadows and bring out the joy in Layla's eyes, Trey was whisked back in a wave of memories.. one in particular.
When he had first met her.
It had been their first mission after Trey and Mark had rescued everyone with Nedley's assistance.
Back at Slahood.. and they hadn't accomplished one thing.
It's hard enough to communicate as it is, Trey argued with himself. We're doing the best we can under the circumstances. ...Right?
He didn't allow himself to answer that.
They'd had such big plans to take down the Population Police, had every scenario planned out...all for naught. Maybe Mr. Hendricks was right, he thought miserably. Maybe it WAS all just pretty words. What hope could four kids have to stand against the Population Police, when it was difficult in itself to simply spread one message to the other? Tugging at the insignia on his sleeve, Trey hoped that all of this hadn't been a huge, epic fail. A mistake.
As he scanned the empty table, Trey wondered vaguely where Nina and Lee (even though he knew Luke was Lee's real name, Trey would always know him as Lee, his courageous best friend) were. Then he remembered. Nina was on cooking duty (he was out of it; she had been the one to serve him his food), and Lee was probably busy with the horses. He had been assigned to stable duty.
Even though Lee and Nina had never usually provided him with entertaining banter, Trey missed their presence. He felt alone. Like the time his mom had dumped him out at Hendricks School, never to look back...
Stop it, Trey told himself firmly. At the worst times, bad memories always came to the surface to haunt him.
Trey's ears picked up on an officer's conversation with his colleagues a table away. It wasn't hard- the guy was vociferous. Eager for the distraction, Trey stirred his soup absentmindedly and listened.
"-Yeah, my first...hm, I'd say almost a year ago," a young-ish man was saying, probably in his early twenty's. He grinned as if he was sharing an inside joke. "I was scouting around in the woods, y'know? Thought it'd be boring, but hey, I was sent there on a special errand- duty, y'know? I'm just walking and suddenly there's this crashing sound. Thought it was a bear or somethin' at first. So I look and it's this kid, maybe ten by the looks of it. And I'm tellin' ya, he was as stealthy as a water buffalo." The man gave a light laugh that held a certain dangerous quality, one that sent chills down Trey's spine. "He's yelling to himself, the little idiot. He was just asking to get killed, y'know? Anyway, it's something about how he was sick of always being pushed around just 'cause he's a third child, how he hates..someone. What did he call her - Kayla? Anyhow, something or other. And lemme tell ya, that there was the only confession I needed. So I step out from behind the tree, right, and the look on this kid's face is priceless. Seriously. Then I shoot him. All there is to it." The man nodded, obviously pleased of himself. "A good first, y'know. One less rat for the Government to take care of, anyway. I let his body to rot in the woods."
As the men around him cut up and continued the dialogue, Trey felt like he was going to double over and retch. How coldhearted could they be, to care so little about human life? To talk about it as if they were discussing the weather! Really! Poor kid...
Obviously, Trey wasn't the only one who was disgusted with them, much to his relief. At the table right beside him sat an auburn-haired girl whose eyes were encased with pure, palpable hatred as they stared daggers at the boasting man. The clenched fists in her lap began to shake violently. Is she a third child too? Trey wondered, hopeful at the thought of another ally, yet at the same time relating to her rage. It took every ounce of his willpower to suppress the urge to walk over and yell right in that man's face, tell him what for.
But then the girl began to unnerve Trey. The bloodlust in her eyes was evident. Calmly, eerily, one of her fists unclasped to grasp the knife on her tray. Surely she isn't... Trey thought in horror. She would be killed - brutally - for even attempting. There were dozens of officers around that could easily come to the guy's defense. The odds were clearly not in her favor. What could she hope to gain from this? Trey of all people could understand her need for vengeance, but to act on it was insanity!
Still.. he had to admire her bravery, scary and impressive as it was.
Trey knew that if someone didn't step up, if someone didn't stop her, he'd watch something straight out of a nightmare unfold before his very eyes. He frantically looked around as the girl stood, her knuckles turning white from clutching the knife, and began to walk toward the boasting man with brisk steps. None of the officers had noticed her yet. If someone acted now, everyone could be spared.
When it was obvious that it had come down to him, Trey inwardly sighed. Yeah, I'm the man for the job, apparently. Why is it always me? Why can't someone else be brave for once? Cowardice is practically my middle name! Even if he had impersonated a Population Police officer, crawled through air ducts right past Aldous Krakenaur, his worst enemy, and saved his friends just months before..
Focus. Trey got to his feet and tensed his legs, bending down as if getting ready for a football tackle. It'd be hard to stop her.. with that knife in her hand, she had a point against him. It'd be a difficult task indeed. But he had to try.. and take precautions. Trey stuffed a few napkins into his pocket.
Then, before he could change his mind, he ran.
Trey charged the girl from behind. She literally didn't know what hit her. He took hold of her like he was going to wrestle her to the ground, but instead drove her right out of the cafeteria, and straight into the bathroom with silver wallpaper.
The girl was stronger than she looked, though. She struggled against him, kicked him, even bit him. She's a lunatic! Trey clamped his hand over her mouth, his other firmly holding down her arm, the one that held the knife as if it was her lifeline. He all but shoved her into the bathroom, shutting the door and locking it quickly behind him. Breathing hard, Trey listened to see if it sounded like anybody was coming after them. When he was satisfied that the coast was clear, he turned his attention to the panting girl.
His heart all but jumped into his throat, even though that was physically impossible. The girl was beautiful.
Ok, maybe that was a little extreme, but it was true nonetheless. She reminded Trey of a younger version of Mrs. Theodora Talbot (the first woman he'd ever seen besides his mom and a couple of teachers at the Hendricks School, and the prettiest, at that). She had thick, straight, bright auburn hair that flowed past her shoulders and shone vibrantly, even in the dim lighting of the bathroom. She had slender curves that showed even in the dreary gray Population Police uniform she was wearing (which let Trey know she was a new recruit). Her brilliant jade-green eyes, even flecked with fury and hatred as they were now, would've taken a million shades of color to paint. Red freckles matching her hair and eyebrows were dotted across her nose and cheeks, a trademark that had always fascinated Trey ever since he'd met the liber boy, or Jonas (Trey had found out his name when it was announced he'd been executed for impersonating a Population Police officer), who'd had freckles too. Long, curled, red eyelashes framed her eyes. Her pretty face was pinched in rage.
Trey blushed, but couldn't stop staring.
"How dare you!" the girl was shrieking, her entire body shaking. "That man killed my brother! HE DESERVES TO DIE!"
Trey jerked from his stupor and panickedly slapped his hand over her mouth. "Do you want to get us killed?" he whispered, fear that someone had heard her knocking his knees.
The girl sank her teeth into his hand hard, drawing blood. When Trey yelped and released his hold, her voice was icy and menacing. "Don't you get it? I don't care. Not anymore. All I care about is making that man pay for what he did!" Tears brimmed in her eyes, but the resentment stayed.
She's hysterical. Anger's taken over and controlling her actions, overcoming all logic, not making her think straight. She's thinking irrationally. There's no getting through to her.
Gathering his courage, and sorting through his muddled thoughts, Trey unclasped her fingers and wrenched the knife from her hand. He had to get rid of that thing- immediately. The girl gasped and lunged for it, eyes blazing. "Give it back!" she yelled. "NOW!"
"No." Acting with a confidence he didn't feel, Trey flushed the knife down the toilet. As the girl continued to screech at him and even land a few light- not so light for a girl, though, and they hurt- blows, Trey remembered when Mark had slapped him when he had been having a panic attack, how it had silenced him. "Hey, that really does work on hysterical people," Mark had said. Well, one way to find out.
Trey reeled his hand back and slapped the girl right across the face, feeling immense guilt for doing so. He expected her to scream, "What was that for?" and carry on with her blows (verbal and physical), but the girl was stunned into silence, staring at him blankly.
You were right, Mark. Who knew. Trey cleared his throat nervously. What was he supposed to do now? Say, "Hey, sorry about that. Had to shut you up somehow. How's life?"
The girl sank to the floor and buried her head in her knees. Trey for a moment worried that she'd start the waterworks. He definitely could not have handled that. But she was eerily silent, her shoulders shaking a little.
Trey pondered her words. The boy the man had talked about- that was her brother? How'd she know? It could all be a setup, but he doubted it. This girl's grief was all too real. Sympathy for her came at Trey in waves, and he resisted the urge to take the girl into his arms. Wait- where had that come from? He'd never had that desire before..
"Listen.. I'm, I'm really sorry about your brother," Trey said, mentally slapping himself. The words seemed so hollow, so empty... meaningless. The girl was obviously in a lot of pain, and she deserved more than that. But try as he might, Trey couldn't think of anything better to say.
"I didn't ask for your condolences," the girl snapped, lifting her tearstreaked face to reveal bitterness. "Why'd you do it?" she then demanded.
"W-What?" Trey found that his mind ceased to work properly whenever he looked at her.
She rolled her eyes. "Drag me out of there, duh. You gonna spend all day with that stupid look on your face? And close your mouth. You'll catch flies."
In all truth, Trey should've been intimidated, but instead he was...captivated. Was this how she really acted, or was it her anger talking? She was unlike anyone he'd ever met before (which didn't say much, but still). Then, realizing that she was waiting for him to answer, Trey stammered. "I..I just knew it wouldn't turn out well. That was risky, you know."
Was it just his imagination, or did the girl's eyes soften the fraction of an inch? "Well, gee, I didn't know that," she growled, her voice dripping with sarcasm. "That was my only chance to avenge my brother's death. And you blew it. So yeah. Thanks a lot."
Trey felt the need to defend himself. "You were way outnumbered. You couldn't have stood a chance. Besides, if you killed him, you'd be no better than the Population Police. Even if it was for your brother." He almost felt horrified at his brazen words, but stood his ground.
The girl's eyes flashed angrily, then dimmed in a split second. She slumped against the wall. "Maybe you're right," she muttered. "Heck, I don't know up from down anymore." She buried her head in her hands and took in a shuddering breath. "It wasn't fair, what they did to him. It's not right! How can they not care about the lives they ruin?" In that moment, Trey knew she wasn't just talking about the third children in general. She was also referring to the lives surrounding them. Their hurting families.
After a moment's hesitation, Trey reached out and clasped her shoulder. He had nothing to say but hoped the contact would speak for him. The girl jumped and narrowed her eyes at him, shrugging her shoulder away. "How do I know you're not one of them?" she hissed. "For all I know, you could be here to lock me up for attempt! Good cop, bad cop routine. I know how that goes."
Trey did, too. He remembered it from a detective book he'd read once. "B-Because I would never- I mean.. I'm a..." His throat closed up as he shakily pointed to his shadow, hoping she caught his meaning. He didn't know if she could be trusted either, but there was no going back now.
The girl frowned as her gaze followed his finger. Trey watched as it clicked. Her eyes widened and she nodded solemnly, making a zipping motion across her mouth. With her gesture came the indication, "My lips are sealed." Trey felt himself smile in relief.
The girl leaned foward. "Name's Layla," she whispered. "I'm Penelope around here, though. And we'd better get outta here before it starts looking suspicious. Or if someone actually needs to go." She smirked.
Trey's heart took a nosedive. Why did he feel like this? It was an unfamiliar emotion, one he couldn't put his finger on. "I..I'm registered as Ethan," he whispered, "but call me Trey. And agreed." His previous (and first) alias had been Travis Jackson, but he'd gotten into.. "mischief" on that account, so Mr. Hendricks had supplied him with a new I.D. card.
Layla smiled a little, and that was enough for Trey to keep going. "You walk out as if nothing ever happened. I'll take to the ventilation shafts." He pointed to the one right above them.
Layla frowned. "You sure?" He found that when she dropped her distant guard, she was... pleasurable.
"Positive. I've done it plenty of times before." Trey nodded and reached up to unclasp the hinges. "I'll go first."
Layla stepped forward. "I'll close it behind you." Her voice was soft, and it made Trey nearly lose his footing. "I'm sure we'll run into each other again."
"I hope so," Trey agreed sincerely. He started to go in, headfirst.
"Oh.. and um, Trey?"
He turned, pulse racing. "Yeah?"
Layla gave him a smile, a real one that reached and warmed her emerald eyes. "Thanks."
"N-No problem." Trey's mouth felt like cotton. "Bye..Layla." He hit his head getting in, and he berated himself for appearing anything less than smooth in front of her. He heard her giggle. It was melodic. He wondered what a laugh would sound like...
Trey forced the thoughts away and crawled in, hearing the vent opening being shut securely behind him, and carried the image of Layla's smile with him through the darkness.
Trey was surprised when a note was discreetly slipped into his hand the next day. Expecting it to be from Nina, Lee, or Nedley, he put it in his pocket and continued eating his cereal as if nothing had happened. He didn't dare read it with so many officers around.
Only when he was on morning patrol did he unravel the note and read the neat handwriting. Meet me out front after breakfast. -P
Out front? Was that outside? Trey felt weak in the knees. And P? Who was that? His mind spun.
Then he remembered: Layla, or Penelope, as the note indicated.
Taking a deep breath, Trey crumpled the note back into his pocket and strode purposefully to the front door and threw it open, cringing at the fresh air. Shielding the sunlight from his face with his hand, he spotted her. Bent over some hedges lining the building with clippers in her hand, trimming them. Her gleaming locks were tossed carelessly over one shoulder and her eyebrows were knitted in concentration, her arms straining. Layla caught sight of Trey heading toward her, then lit up. "'Bout time you got here to help me!" she called to him loudly, words colored in frustration. Layla inconspicuously tilted her head toward two officers standing nearby and Trey got the message. He knelt beside her and accepted the spare clippers she thrust at him. "Nice of you to join me, Ethan. Took your good sweet time over breakfast," she continued grumbling until the two officers went inside.
Trey didn't want to come right out and say, "What do you want?", but he was curious as to why she wanted to see him.
Layla seemed to sense it, however, and leaned toward him. "There are more of you here, aren't there?" she whispered in a barely audible voice.
Trey on instinct swung his gaze around furtively. "W-What?"
"You heard me. You're with a group, aren't you? A resistance."
Trey wanted to slap his hand over her mouth, but, remembering how she'd bitten him the day before, and rubbing the sore spot, he decided against it and nodded briefly.
"Thought so." Layla studied him, eyes sparkling. "I wanna join."
Layla looked down. "I know I'm not...one of you. And I know this all seems suspicious and I don't look trustworthy. But... I wanna help fight this evil, T-Ethan. I have to. For my brother." Her eyes glinted in the hint of unshed tears, but there was determination there too. And Trey knew, right then, that there was more to this girl than met the eye. She was full of quiet resolve, strength, and feisty fierceness. He.. liked it. And he also knew that there'd be no swaying Layla's mind.
But also, in a deep recess of his mind, Trey hoped that this wouldn't be another one of his ever-famous mistakes. He had trusted Jason, too, and look what had happened...
Shaking off the thoughts, Trey didn't even have to consider it. "Ok. You're in."
Over the next few weeks, Trey learned more and more about Layla.
Haunted by guilt over her brother's death (she wouldn't go into detail about that, although Trey wondered how she could feel guilty about it), she had run away from home (which consisted of her mother, father, and older sister, who all blamed her for her brother's death), and joined the nearest Population Police HQ under a fake identity she had managed to salvage (she wouldn't go into detail about that either), in hopes to avenge her brother and find some way to destroy the Government. She'd been in a rut when Trey had first met her.
They continued to slip notes to each other in secrecy and meet at least once a day. It had taken Lee, Nina, Nedley, and the chaffeur a lot of convincing on his part, but they eventually grew to trust Layla- enough, that is. All the while Trey grew to care for her with emotions unlike anything he'd ever experienced before. He.. enjoyed it.
It was the beginning of a newfound friendship.. and possible romance.
It was a meeting of love ordained by fate- haud cuiquam amoris fatali, in Latin. His new motto.
And he wouldn't have had it any other way.
"Trey? Hel-lo? What's going through that big head of yours?"
Trey shook his head out of his daze, glancing down at his flickering hands. "I was.. engrossed in thought."
"Obviously, human dictionary." Layla smirked. "What about?"
"Um.." Trey could feel himself blushing. "When...when we first met."
Silence. Then a laugh from Layla. He loved the sound of her laughter..
"Yeah, because I'm such a stickler for first impressions." Layla squeezed his hands, lip curled in amusement.
Trey laughed a little too. "It was.. understandable." He gazed down at his hands and pulled them from Layla's, holding them out into the evening air and opening them. Releasing the fireflies.
The two yellow lights scurried away into the diamond sky, no longer held back. Freed from their bonds. He watched in amazement.
Symbolizing Layla and me, Trey thought, surprising himself. He glanced back to where Layla was watching him with a tender smile. She came up beside him and they watched in silence for several minutes, enjoying the serenity of the moment.
"Trey?" Her quiet, lovely voice broke into his thoughts.
Trey angled his head to look into her eyes. "Hmm?" he answered vaguely, lost in them already.
"Thanks." Layla's face shone with a million memories.
"For what?" Trey was puzzled when he finally registered her words.
Layla leaned forward and planted a gentle, lingering kiss on his cheek. Soft as a butterfly's wing. Trey felt warmth spreading throughout his entire body, heart racing, face reddening in pleasure. He stored her next words, drank in everything about the moment, in his heart forever.
"..For giving me a chance."
A/N: AWWW! *spazzes out like a fangirl* 83 Wasn't that so incredibly cute? x3 I think they make the perfectest (I'm aware of the improper grammar, Trey -.-) couple evar! ^_^ I love his puppy love/admiration for her. 'Tis so cute to work with. =D
Soo? Love it? Hate it? Like it? Mudpie? ^.^ Please review! I'd totally appreciate some honest feedback! Thanks, guyss! *air kisses* xD
Hehehe, NO, in case you're wondering, I did NOT think of "At the Beginning" by Richard Marx and Donna Lewis OR "Fireflies" by Owl City while writing this! Why ever would you think that? xD
OH! Annnddd...HAPPY THANKSGIVING! 8D I'm out! ^-^